Acting on a tip-off, Punjab Police raided a house located in Araiyan Pind near Raiwind at 2 am on Thursday. Reportedly, the house had been rented by militants one month ago, and its close proximity (2 kilometers) to the Sharif family’s Raiwind Palace gives reason to believe that the premier and his family members may have been the targets. The siege lasted for a long 10 hours during which guns, rocket launchers and grenades were fired as terrorists offered stiff resistance to Elite Force (EF) personnel. EF personnel were under strict instructions to operate with extreme caution owing to the possible presence of hostages in the safe house. Two personnel lost their lives in the line of duty and two terrorists, who appeared to be locals according to initial reports, were also killed. Certain reports suggest that terrorists were affiliated with al-Qaeda but such has not been officially confirmed by the government or security forces.

The entire episode may have been shocking, even frightening, but it wasn’t one bit surprising. The ongoing military operation has led to militants being forced to flee from an integral base in Miranshah. Mir Ali will likely follow. They are losing ground and will grow desperate over time, which can only mean two things: they will surrender or attack with conviction to deter the state from further action. So, this was bound to happen. And somewhere else, in a different part of this province or this country, it may happen again. It is the price of war which must be paid if it is to be won. However, law enforcement agencies got there in time on this occasion and fought bravely to neutralise the immediate threat, for which they must be congratulated. The sacrifice of brave personnel ought to evoke the deepest feelings of gratitude and pride amongst all well-wishing inhabitants of this land. But we can’t have too many of ‘you miss, they hit’ scenarios. We can react on intelligence reports and tip-offs, of course, but other preemptive measures nonetheless remain vital in countering terrorism.

We can’t have unsupervised pockets within cities where terrorists can find refuge and carry out activities from there. It is simply not possible for a single federal unit or force to oversee the entire territory ranging from the outskirts of Lahore to unregulated slums in Islamabad and Karachi. The police remain most suitable to provide basic intelligence and keep a look out for suspicious activity in aid of civilian population. An SHO of a local Police station is as critical in preventing terrorism as any other high-ranking official. Have the local ‘thaanas’ been mobilised to become an active part of some larger campaign? Do we now have a mechanism to enable information-sharing and co-operation amongst different authorities concerned with security?